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My Dog ate Paper Towels, Toilet Paper, or Kleenex! What Now?

Did your dog just eat paper towels, toilet paper, or tissue paper? If you are aren't sure what to do, read on as veterinarian Jo Woodnut outlines your next steps.

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Last Updated: March 26, 2021 | 9 min read

Dogs are inquisitive creatures who will sometimes get into things they shouldn’t. If advertisements are to be believed, puppies and dogs love playing with tissues and toilet paper, with no harm to their health. And yes, while small bits of paper being swallowed may not cause any harm, larger amounts can. This means it’s important to understand what can happen as a result.

Yes, many dog owners return home and find toilet paper or paper towels ripped up and scattered around the house. But what happens when it’s not just ripped up, and your pup has decided it would be more fun to eat the paper scraps rather than leave them be?

Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Kleenex, and any paper product can be a problem if your dog has consumed too much. But when should you be worried, and when does it move beyond accident to a recurring problem? Read on and find out if paper products are harmful, why dogs eat paper, and how you can prevent it from happening again.

My Dog Just Ate Paper, What’s Next?

Large Dog Playing with Toilet Paper
If your dog ate paper products, follow the steps below.

Let’s start off by stating the obvious. If your pup consumed any type of paper product, you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. Foreign objects of any kind can cause bowel obstructions, especially when the object is not something your dog can digest.

If you are worried and wondering what you should do, follow the steps below, in an effort to make sure that there’s no long term damage to your canine companion.

Step 1: Gather Facts

Firstly, try to estimate how much tissue might have been eaten. This is difficult when the paper consumed was shredded. You should also check whether anything was on the tissue that could be dangerous.

Step 2: Secure Your Dog

You’ll want to secure your pup. Once you’ve put away all the paper products and assessed what could have been eaten, you’ll want to put them in their crate, or in a secure room. This way you can calmly respond, and move onto step 3 and focus on that single task.

Step 3: Call Your Veterinarian

It is then best to seek advice from your veterinarian, or veterinary surgeon. They will be able to discuss the situation with you and decide if they need to see your pup for a check-up. They will most likely recommend that your dog is monitored at home, and provide you symptoms to watch out for. Calling your vet is usually free and will provide you with peace of mind.

Step 4: Follow Your Vet’s Instructions

Your vet might ask you to come to the clinic for an examination. This is especially true if your canine companion is small and has eaten a large amount of paper towel, or if they are showing symptoms. However, it is more likely that your vet will give you a list of symptoms to look out for. These symptoms may include vomiting or inappetence. They will also likely ask you to call back if your pet becomes unwell.

Step 5: Do Not Attempt to Self Treat

Please do not use home remedies for inducing vomiting in dogs. Generally, toilet paper, Kleenex or paper towel will cause no problems for dogs, but making them sick can make them very ill. In most cases, your vet won’t tell you to make your pup vomit at home. They’ll advise you to bring Fido in for a visit. However, in the off chance that they do, wait for direction from your vet before attempting it.


Paper Towels vs. Kleenex vs. Toilet Tissue

Puppy with Paper Towel Roll in Mouth
Paper towels are the densest, and likely will be the biggest cause of concern.

Most Kleenex or tissue paper that people use on their noses are of a similar density and weight as toilet tissue used in the bathroom. Paper towels can be thicker, larger, and denser. All three are usually made using very similar ingredients. Usually, when consumed, any of the three will be shredded before ingestion.

Because paper towels have a thicker density, they may be more harmful to dogs. It really depends on if the paper was shredded, how much was consumed, and how big your dog is. Larger dogs have bigger intestinal tracts and can pass things differently. This means a Mastiff may have an easier time passing toilet paper than a Chihuahua. Paper towels can pose a slightly higher risk for obstruction depending on the density of the paper towel ingested.

Regardless of which type of paper product your dog consumed, you’ll need to follow the same steps. Paper Towels are more well known for causing bowel obstructions than other paper products, but all three warrant an immediate call to the vet.


Will Eating Paper Products Hurt My Dog?

Dog at Veterinarian
Yes, paper products can be harmful, depending on how much was ingested.

Whether or not paper products will harm your dog, largely depends on their size, and how much has been eaten. In many cases, dogs simply rip up or destroy paper products rather than eat them. When tissue, paper towels, or Kleenex is swallowed in small amounts, it should not cause harm to your four-legged friend.

Tissue or toilet paper that has been ripped up or shredded will most likely pass through the digestive tract without incident. You may only realize what your dog has been up to when you find evidence in their stools. It’s when there are large quantities consumed that you have a problem.

If Kleenex or toilet tissue is eaten in large amounts it has the potential to get stuck and cause a blockage somewhere in the digestive tract. If a blockage occurs this can be very serious and could make the dog very unwell. Surgery might be needed to correct the problem and relieve the obstruction. Symptoms of a blockage might include lethargy or vomiting.

Be particularly cautious if the tissue had been discarded after being used with cleaning products or chemicals such as nail polish remover. If you find evidence your pup might have eaten tissue that has chemicals on seek veterinary advice without delay. There is greater potential for this situation to be problematic, and it is wise to err on the side of caution.

Chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide are often found in cleaning products, and if ingested can cause unwanted side effects. If hydrogen peroxide is eaten the dog might drool excessively or vomit, often profusely. In severe cases, there could be inflammation or irritation of the esophagus and stomach.


Six Reasons Your Dog Eats Paper Products

Small Puppy eating Toilet Paper
Here are six common reasons your dog may be obsessed with eating paper.

There are typically six different reasons that your pup may be consuming paper products like toilet paper. While this list isn’t all-inclusive, there’s a good chance your pup will fall into one of these six different reasons for wolfing down the Kleenex while you aren’t watching.

Teething Pain and/or Curiosity

Puppies are curious creatures eager to explore the world. Puppies will often use their mouths to chew or investigate objects. When puppies experience teething pain, they will mouth or chew objects in an attempt to relieve discomfort. While a chew toy can help satisfy teething urges, they aren’t always enough. Puppies will often chew anything they can get hold of easily around the house and this can include tissue paper.

Boredom

Of course, chewing up or shredding Kleenex or toilet paper can also be fun for puppies or dogs. If a dog does not have enough mental stimulation then it might start to look for ways to alleviate boredom, this could include chewing or ripping up a box of tissues. Such behavior will attract negative reactions and for a bored dog, this could satisfy their desire for attention.

Anxiety

An anxious dog perhaps struggling with separation anxiety may become destructive when left alone. This could include ripping up or shredding paper. Shredding paper might lead to the dog actually swallowing the tissue.

Pica

There are medical problems that can be associated with eating unusual things. Pica is a condition characterized by the consumption of non-food items and can be caused by underlying behavioral or medical problems While Pica is common with dogs eating grass, or their own feces, a dog with pica may ingest cardboard, Kleenex or toilet tissue as part of the condition.

Nutritional Deficiency

Of course, nutritional deficiencies or an insufficient diet could lead to a dog seeking out and eating objects which are not food. Tissue is easily accessed in many homes. This makes it an easy target for a dog trying to satisfy its appetite.

Taste

In some cases, the dog might be interested in tissue because of what’s on it. This could be a paper towel or napkin with bacon grease from the trash. In this situation, the dog may eat paper because frankly, it just tastes delicious. But it is much more likely to cause secondary effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.

If tissue paper containing a large amount of fat is eaten, the dog could also be at risk of developing pancreatitis. Kleenex might be discarded into the rubbish with lotion or beauty products on which may smell tempting to your pet. This could lead them to investigate and eat some of the tissue.


Getting Your Dog to Stop

Dog Eating Paper Towels or Toilet Paper
Firm Training is usually the first step in breaking a paper eating habit.

Prevention is better than a cure in this case. Preventing your puppy or adult dog from having access to paper products will likely stop the issue and curb the habit. When leaving the dog alone in the house, ensure bathroom doors are shut and any boxes of tissues are out of reach. In some cases, using stair gates or dog crates can be key to breaking the habit of toilet tissue eating.

You should also take care to keep any discarded waste tissues safely out of reach. This may mean using a canine-proof trash can. If you catch your pup gleefully ripping up tissue or eating it, avoid chasing them around. This could soon turn it into a game that Fido might be keen to repeat. Instead, try to ignore the behavior and quietly remove the tissue your pet has been ripping apart.

If your dog has made a habit of ripping up tissue paper it is best to act to try and deter the behavior. Although the problem is mostly going to be the mess that will need cleaning up there is potential for the dog to get himself into trouble if he swallows a lot of tissue. Try to provide access to safe toys or enrichment when you are leaving him alone in the house. Special treat dispensers or toys might help to redirect boredom or prevent anxiety leading to destructive behaviors.


Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve gotten this far, you may still have questions if your dog ate paper products of any kind. Generally speaking, most paper products are similar in nature. Below are common questions that are asked when it comes to dogs and paper products.

Can dogs easily pass tissues or paper towel?

Tissue is of course soft, and in most cases can easily pass through the digestive tract without causing any issue. You might notice remnants of the tissue in the feces as it unlikely to be digested. Dogs will often rip or chew the tissue into small pieces which makes it easier to be passed. However, if eaten in large enough amounts tissue paper could swell or potentially cause a blockage.

Is it bad if a dog eats toilet paper?

Toilet paper isn’t designed to be swallowed, and there is certainly no nutritional benefit to it being eaten. Ideally, tissue or toilet paper should be kept out of reach of your dog to avoid a problem. In most cases it won’t cause a serious issue if your four-legged friend decides to eat some tissue. Again, the biggest risk is a bowel obstruction for your canine companion.

Why does my dog tear up toilet paper before eating it?

For some dogs ripping apart toilet paper or tissue becomes a fun game or a way to relieve boredom. In some cases, separation anxiety will manifest as destructive behaviors where the dog will rip apart items it has access to which could include toilet paper. Puppies are particularly prone to chewing up items they come across. This is in part exploration but can also be down to teething.

What are the signs of bowel obstruction in a dog?

If a dog swallows a large wad of paper towel, it is known as a foreign body. This object might then cause a blockage or obstruction of the digestive tract, which is an emergency. Symptoms of obstruction might be subtle at first and might include lethargy, listlessness, and lack of appetite. Signs and symptoms may then progress to vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, and straining to go to the toilet. If your pup is showing signs of a bowel obstruction contact your veterinarian immediately.

Final Thoughts

Paper products ingested in small amounts, will likely not be harmful to your canine companion. But it’s always best to place a phone call to your vet to be sure. This way your vet will understand the situation if your pup does show symptoms that means they are struggling to digest it. By following the steps above, you’ll make sure you have prepared to address any more serious health impacts should they arise.

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